While We’re at DO…

… we thought Aurora should keep you company. She’s sitting here with two favorite toys: 1) the self-made ball o’foil on a string, and 2) my bullwhip. No-one should be surprised that the bullwhip is her favorite toy, since we found her at DO, after all.

kitty toys

(The bullwhip, btw, was not given to me for any reasons you’d imagine. In fact it was given to me by a friend who went to Turkey, and who thought of me when she saw it – because I am a huge
Raiders of the Lost Ark fan. Perverts.)

What To Do

Okay, here’s another of those beautiful parts of the Narnia books, another of the parts that makes me love these books more and more over the years:

Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later and then you still have to decide what to do.
– C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair

You can put “being angry” in the place of “crying” and – same thing. My grandmother used to say similar things. A long time ago, when one of my brothers was having a hard time with his life, dealing with addiction and divorce and some other heavy problems, and he said something to her about how rough things were. I can’t say she was sympathetic, except she was; the woman went through one world of hell in her lifetime. But what she said was “At some point, you have to put your pants on and go outside.”

To me, they’re similar sentiments: you still have to decide what to do.


In order to comment on my blog, for now, you need to go over here and post your comment.

I’d love it if some of you were to put some of the comments you made about the Lacey Leigh interview and the Deep Stealth one into the new blog; unfortunately we let half a day go by between the backup and the IP redirect, so the comments posted inbetween are lost. (Apologies – this was way more complicated than it could have been!)

Welcome to the New Boards

Welcome to the redesign of the Boards!

As we all know, a tone of crankiness had overtaken the boards and eventually caused us to close them down.

While they were shut down, we did some research, thought about the community we wanted, the community we had, and tried to figure out a way to introduce some elements that would tip the balance back toward where we wanted it.

Some of you will find yourselves on moderation – on the premise that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. In order to keep the spirit of the change, we thought we’d help it along by keeping some of you from taking your first steps publicly. Moderation is not meant to be permanent as people get used to the new rules and the jist of the redesign.

I. Trans Discussion & Community

So what have we done? We created a forum specifically for theoretical discussion called 1) THE IVORY TOWER. The experience of The Thread That Shall Not Be Named made me aware that I needed a place to work this stuff out – and others did as well. The intellectual enquiry that happened in that thread was valuable despite it being personally and emotionally painful, too. So we’ve created The Ivory Tower – a place where intellectual enquiry and hard questions can happen without restraint. This does not mean it’s open to flame wars; I still expect people to be polite and respectful of each other’s opinions, and to argue a point with evidence and thoughtfulness, and to agree to disagree when there’s no concensus.

But I want to emphasize that complaints about people’s feelings being hurt will not be recognized as ‘legit’ in that forum. If you are sensitive about trans or gender questions, YOU SHOULD’T READ THAT FORUM. If you do anyway, that is only your own issue, and your own problem.

That said, we’ve also introduced the 2) COMMUNITY & SUPPORT forum, which is intended to be a place for people to share their experiences and thoughts as trans, to seek advice, help, or encouragement from others on the boards, and where emotions will be honored above all else. It is not even intended as a ‘kinder, gentler’ version of The Ivory Tower forum, but something altogether different in tone and intent.

I’ve also introduced a special forum for people to discuss 3) RELATIONSHIPS. Trans people or partners, people wanting to be in relationships or in them can talk here about real world issues concerning partnership in the context of transness. This forum is intended to be a gentle forum, but not without critique; relationships require brutal honesty and so will a forum to discuss them. Still, respect for others’ experiences, feelings, opinions and thoughts will be required.

I’ve also added a sub-forum specifically for those with 4) KIDS, as resources on being a parent & trans are few & far between; I thought we might start compiling useful information about this subject so that others won’t have to look as hard.

There is also a 5) GENERAL TRANS TOPICS forum for subjects that aren’t well suited to either theoretical or personal treatments. This is the remainder of the forumer TG Discussion forum – what wasn’t weeded into new/other forums in the re-design. It will work, I think, as a good default forum – if you don’t know where to put something.

I have sorted a bunch of the threads that were formerly in the TG DISCUSSION forum into the new threads to give people a sense of what should go in them, but feel free to ask questions.

6) SEX & SENSIBILITY required no changes. It is what it is.

II. Partners

Likewise with the 7) PARTNERS’ CORNER, which is still what it’s always been: a place for partners to discuss whatever issues they’d like to without interference or argument from trans folks.

III. Resources

The 8) NEWS forum is still for articles of interest to the larger GLBT community.

9) HELEN & BETTY NEWS is now a sub-forum of NEWS, and is the only forum I lost while moving things around! So its history is gone, though I’m sure I’ll have other things to post there. It may turn out I’ll only be using my blog for our news, and I’ve really enjoyed having some MHB boarders actually post comments on my blog, instead. (So keep that up, she says hopefully.)

10) MEDIA, CULTURE & REVIEWS is a place for us to talk about movies (trans or not), tv shows, magazines, plays, & any other cultural stuff we come across and want to talk about.

The 11) READER’S CHAIR is a sub-forum in it, and just as it was before. All things literary – book reviews, interviews with authors, the writing life, poetry – are welcome here.

The 12) BULLETIN BOARD is still the place to post announcements, events, or other things of interest to people who read the boards.

IV. The Lighter Side

The next big change is another category: THE LIGHTER SIDE. One of the things I felt we were missing – or that was only suggested by the existence of the former “ETC” forum – was somewhere to kick back. Consider it MHB’s bar or an afternoon party.

13) APPEARANCES is all about that: beauty, hair, hair removal, nails, fashion, clothes, body image, weight loss, and grooming. Oh, and shoes. Previously it felt like people were apologetic for posting anything about fashion, and I wanted to acknowledge that smart folks worry about how they look, too. That doesn’t exclude intelligent, critical conversations about gender presentation and body image, of course, but consider this forum my gift to the fashionistas of the boards.

14) MEETINGS & GREETINGS is where we all get to wait for the train together, talk about the wife, the weather, who’s going to the doctor on Tuesday & for what. It can be goofy or serious, and it will be important here to try to indicate what the poster wants out of a thread – if advice, or solace, or humor to make you feel better. In a sense, MEETINGS & GREETINGS is our chat in 24/7 format.

15) THE WATER COOLER / ETC covers all the rest: the goofy threads, the news articles that don’t belong elsewhere, light conversation about culture & politics. Or for stuff that really just doesn’t ‘fit’ anywhere else.

V. Help with These Boards

Finally, there’s 16) TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES which is mostly what it was before: a place to ask questions about how the boards work, to look at when you can’t figure out how to do some neat trick like posting a photo or getting an avatar. That said, here’s the only change: META DISCUSSIONS about how the boards work, or don’t work, are not to happen in this forum. They are not supposed to happen anywhere *publicly* unless & until Betty and I request advice from you all. Why? 1) Because this is a thankless enough job as it is without someone introducing the idea that it’s time to voice all grievances, and 2) Because too many old wounds get brought up in threads like that. However, – and this is important!! – anyone is free to email me or Betty or Caprice with 1) problems with another poster, 2) inappropriate posts (either by subject or tone), and 3) general suggestions about the running of the boards. I don’t want to have these conversations publicly because they become pile-ons in one way or another, eventually, and cause way too much bad blood all around.


A final note: no commentaries about religion or politics. No posting of news articles that are not GLBT relevant. That’s what blogs are for, so get one if you need one. But neither of these topics will be tolerated in future. To be more clear, it’s okay to say “What Rev. Bob Roberts said about gay men is dead wrong,” but saying “Christianity is the problem” is NOT okay.

Obviously we haven’t been sitting around twiddling our thumbs, but put a lot of thought – and effort – into this redesign. One of the things I realized during this break was that either these boards had to be moderated or they couldn’t exist (and still be any semblance of the cool things you all have emailed me that they were). But I will restrict my moderating somewhat: more intense scrutiny on the first two categories, not as much on the 2nd two. I can also think about finding other moderators now, as well, for the lighter forums.

But mostly I wanted to say that it will take all of you you respecting the intent of these boards, and that includes emailing a moderator if someone is going off the rails or a flamewar is starting. It includes walking away and counting to 100 and taking deep breaths when someone says something that makes you angry. It means respecting the intent and content of each of the forums. I intend to be a little bit more of a disciplinarian than I had been: snarkiness, nastiness, personal attacks or “three strikes” (ie, three complaints against one person by three other people + a moderator) will result in moderation and/or temporary bans. Betty and I will also be using negative feedback in order to inform people as to where and how they’ve stepped over the lines.

In a nutshell, we think we’ve redesigned these boards in such a way that everyone can find what they need here: those who are looking for a kind but smart community can have it; those who want to find big answers have a place to try to do so, and those who need support for their own questions of identity and struggles with life can find that, too.

Welcome back.
Helen & Betty

Preview of Deep Stealth Interview

Calpernia Addams and Andrea James – as Deep Stealth Productions – have posted a preview of the interview Andrea James did with me for their “Coming Out Resources” DVD.

It really was one of the best interviews I’ve ever done, but of course I haven’t actually seen the whole of it yet.

(Tip for those on a dial-up: let it play through choppy once, & the next play should be listenable.)

Five Questions With… Lacey Leigh

Lacey Leigh is the authr of Out & About: The Emancipatedlacey leigh Crossdresser as well as 7 Secrets of Successful Crossdressers. She moderates an online community, speaks publicly as a crossdresser, and helps a lot of CDs gain confidence as they take those first fledgeling steps out the (closet) door.

1. What do you think is the most important thing crossdressers need to know?

One of the major changes I have made is in my personal lexicon – my working vocabulary, as it were – is to eliminate the words that carry semantic undertones of judgement or personal imperative: should, must, ought, need, etc. We use them unconsciously, not realizing how such terms of absolutism color the message we’re trying to communicate.

People and friends, beginning with my wife, have reminded that while I have the zeal and passion of a recent convert to faith, there is also a frequent tendency to climb on the soapbox and get a little ‘preachy’. Mea culpa. I’m working on it. It’s especially difficult to keep the lid on it when sharing an attitude, a mindset that has provided such an empowering personal perspective – for me as well as everyone else who has tried it.

Terms that carry such cultural sovereignty are often reliable indicators of personal bias. Count the number of times people use similar words of subtle judgement, multiply by the frequency of the personal pronoun (I, me, my, etc.) and you’ll get a pretty good indicator of how deeply a person is into himself – and whether that person is operating with a closed or an open mind.

A favorite theme is “Why allow people to ‘should’ on you?”

Anyway, I would rephrase “need to know” with “might benefit from understanding.”

Back to your question…

You started with ‘the biggie’; a topic for which a glib reply can lead to greater confusion. To lend a perspective, it might benefit readers to jump over to one of the essays on my outreach website.

Clothing serves as a primary cultural communication. Absent that imperative, we might just as well wrap rags, moss, or bubble wrap around ourselves for protection and comfort. This point is essential in order to grasp a further understanding of crossdressing. We send myriad signals about ourselves through the medium of personal attire and decoration; our ethnicity, our religion, our social status, our allegiance, our mood, our gender, our fantasies, our ‘availability’, our mood – the list is infinite.

Crossdressing is communication.

Which leads to a plethora of additional questions. What, exactly, are we communicating? To whom are we sending the message (trick question)? Is it getting through or is it somehow garbled or confusing? Is the message content accurate at the source? Is the communication important in the first place?

Crossdressing is not about the clothing. Rather, the clothing is a conduit of expression – about our very essential, inner natures. Doesn’t it make sense to say positive, empowering things?

A famous Russian tennis player was once the butt of a locker room prank when his new ‘friends’ educated him with a few phrases in English to help him get by. When he thought he was asking, “Where is the men’s toilet” the words he’d been taught were more on the order of “I need to s**t, which way is the G**damn crapper?” As he became more fluent in English he didn’t appreciate the humor.

In the crossdressing ‘community’ there are many who start out the same way, attempting to communicate in a language they don’t really speak. Little wonder they don’t get much in the way of tolerance; they have made themselves (albeit unintentionally for the most part) intolerable, primarily from restating the messages they absorb from their less thoughtful sisters and from a sensational media that emphasizes the lowest common denominators.

It’s common sense that if we wish to earn respect, it’s a good idea to appear respectable. Our culture, while uncomfortable with nonstandard gender expression, is waaaaaaaaay more uneasy about things deemed overtly sexual. Thus, when crossdressers openly display as clueless Barbies, truckstop trannies, or BDSM submissives it’s understandable why the public at large react as they do. A natal female attired in the same manner would generate a similar reaction. Get a clue! As it harms no other, do as you will – behind bedroom doors, and keep them closed please.

At a recent Eureka En Femme Getaway it was an uphill battle with one middle-aged CD. When asked why she favored miniskirts and CFM strappy platform shoes she replied, “My legs are my best asset.” To which I replied, “Your legs are writing checks that your face and waistline can’t cash.” Her rejoinder was, “I don’t care – people will just have to deal with it.” Sure, a chip-on-my-shoulder attitude will win tolerance every time. Where is a good cluebat when you need one?

I finally got through to her by opening a side door; vanity. She was out on the street the next morning, blissfully displaying her butt cheeks to everyone in her aft quarter, when I walked up to her and in a conspiratorial whisper said, “One word – ‘cellulite’.” That afternoon, she was wearing trousers.

Just as with any language, there are blessings and curses; bold proclamations and subtle suggestions; the vulgar and the tasteful; the shout and the whisper; the symphony and the grunge. It’s helpful to keep in mind that we master a language through practice, total immersion, feedback, trial, and error. The kind of feedback we receive in an echo chamber (‘support’ groups, ‘trans friendly’ venues, and TG social circles) isn’t nearly as helpful as that which we gain by expressing among the culture at large.

Thus, my advocacy for open crossdressing.
Continue reading “Five Questions With… Lacey Leigh”

Christmas Past

Betty and I had one of the nicest Christmases in recent memory this past weekend. I’m not sure how, but everything came together in a good way for us – including a surprise bonus from her boss that made us feel a little less guilty about buying each other presents (though I never feel entirely unguilty, being both Catholic and only partly employed). (Or is that fully employed but underpaid? Something like that.)

I got a new printer/fax/scanner which was badly needed (and deductible!), new cufflinks (NYC subway tokens, even), a new tie bar and a new tie. Also some underwear, and tea, and chocolate truffles. Books (but only one about gender!), Wig in a Box. (I’ll let Betty tell y’all what she got.) We spent the day at my sister and brother-in-law’s place, as per usual, and it was a quiet, pleasant Christmas, with us mostly playing with their new kittens and eating and playing with kittens and talking and… watching kittens sleep.

Tomorrow my entire clan gathers at her place to exchange presents and eat (and no doubt, play with kittens), and I’m looking forward to it; I haven’t seen my parents since they moved to Florida this summer, and my siblings and nieces/nephews in about as long.

Return of the Boards (Not Yet, Again)

The Boards are supposed to go back up today, but as we’re also switching hosts, I’m awaiting a backup of the database and its move before I re-open them.

I don’t want to go ahead and re-open them and then have to shut them down again – may as well get it all done at once. I’m not saying that the boards won’t re-open today, just that they might not.

Greetings Thread

What with the boards closed, I thought I’d set up a thread so that all the board folks are able to wish each other Merry/Happy’s. It’s not often that Christmas & the first night of Chanukah are the same night.

So, use the comments spot below to go right ahead & do that.


A Very Very Happy Holiday Season to you All!!

Another Cool Thing About Narnia

I’ve been re-reading the Narnia Chronicles as a result of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (which I highly recommend) and I’m on The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which I’m reading slowly as it’s always been my favorite book.

But this time around I think it’s The Magician’s Nephew that’s resonating the most. There’s something about the decency in CS Lewis’ voice that just *gets* me. Because thinking about how Digory has to go after Polly, after his uncle has sent her “somewhere” on her own, via his magic rings, is just – well, it’s just mighty decent of him. And some days, I don’t know, basic decency seems really appealing in a world where people are blowing each other up all the time.

Early in the book, when Polly meets Digory Kirke, she notices he has been blubbing, and nearly says as much, but doesn’t, because it would be rude to do so. Yet he has been blubbing, because his mother is dying, and it’s one of the only instances I can even think of in any book, children’s or otherwise, where a boy is crying, and it’s totally normal and natural that he is crying, and that in fact, no big deal is made of his crying – except for the fact that Polly is a nice enough person to know not to mention it.

And her not mentioning it has nothing whatsoever to do with him being a boy. That’s what I like about CS Lewis’ universe. In his world, boys do cry.

Without a Trace

Tonight, the crime drama Without a Trace took on a storyline featuring a transwoman – including a transman she knew, her ex-wife, brother, and parents – and did a fine job presenting the story. The episode is called “Transitions” and though I won’t give away the plot, I was really heartened to see a tv show – especially a crime drama – portray a transwoman who wasn’t evil or insane at the end.

Thanks, CBS.

Diversity in the Classroom Guide

An old and dear friend of mine recently put together a book about diversity in the classroom. It’s not a regular book – more of a workbook or guide for teachers, school therapists, and other people who actually work with kids in schools. It’s called Voices of Diversity: Stories, Activities and Resources for the Multicultural Classroom.

The good news is that she’s an old friend of mine, and asked me for a trans story – maybe some of you remember me asking around for someone who had a first-person account of a trans student and some crisis that came out of transness – but I can certify that at least this book has one trans student in it.

The others that I read – one featuring a gay couple dealing with Mother’s Day – were all really wonderful, & helpful.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

The good news is in that an end to the strike is imminent, but I have to say: our news commentators and leaders need a “Labor History 101.” I’ve been astonished at he amount of times I’ve heard someone say “You don’t get anything done by breaking the law” – a comment first articulated by Mayor Mike Bloomberg – because of course that’s not true at all. Every major strike in this country had injunctions thrown at it, fines levied, and involved some law-breaking by the strikers. Susan B. Anthony broke the law when she registered to vote, Rosa Parks when she sat down on that bus.

It goes to show that the law is often there to protect the owners and the people who already have power.

I am especially disgusted with Bloomberg. Bloomberg calling Toussaint a “thug” is out of the 1920s. It has been a long time that union leaders have been respected participants at the bargaining table. The rhetoric was a kind of flashback, to me, of the era of Carnegie and the Ludlow Massacre – though of course things didn’t become as bad as that.

The larger issue at stake still seems to be the fact that the MTA is a bossy boss, that TWU workers don’t feel respected or heeded when they suggest changes.

Questions Answered

I’ve been asked two questions by MHB boarders:

1) Is Thursday chat still on?

YES. 9pm EST, Yahoo messenger. Donna usually starts chat if I’m not around to, but I’ll show up one way or the other.

2) Is the next in-person meeting of the group going to happen?

YES. 8pm, Tuesday, January 3rd, at the LGBT Center in Manhattan.

Peaceful Solstice

The moment of Winter Solstice occurs December 21, 2005, at 10:35 am Pacific Standard Time. At that moment, the northern tip of the Earth’s axis of rotation will be at its maximum tilt away from the Sun. Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, traditionally marking the beginning of winter. The length of daylight has been shrinking continuously since the end of June; it hits a minimum tomorrow, and thereafter will start increasing in length. For the next six months, the length of daylight will increase; in this way, the mystics say that the first day of winter is the first day of summer.

Have a peaceful, joyful solstice: the days of darkness are on their way out.

(Much thanks to Mike McGarry for the useful and timely information.)

Five Questions With… Vanessa Edwards Foster

Vanessa Edwards Foster is the board chair ofvanessa edwards foster NTAC (National Transgender Advocacy Coalition). A Houston-based activist, Foster is one of the people who lobbies the US Government every year on behalf of transgender people everywhere.

1. Why did you become an activist on trans issues?

Circumstances. Hormones took to me far too quickly, and I lost my job before I was ready to transition. This was back when I thought (having good natural features) that I’d have a seamless transition. It was the late 90s (greatest economy ever), and I was unemployed for nearly 21 months, so it was obvious what was happening. At the time, I led two other local groups and started thinking about what they were experiencing, and how bad it must’ve been for them. And I couldn’t interest anyone else in doing it for us, or for me. So I decided to bite the bullet and do what came unnaturally for me — political activism.

My heritage is heavily native, and my ancestors on all sides were part of the Trail of Tears, as it’s called. So I grew up like all of us were taught: we hate government, we hate politics and politicians (plastic people), we hate the manipulation, the deceit and the devotion to self-interest. Politics was the seamiest of trades, promises from them were made to be broken and any attempt to get involved politically was an exercise in futility and ultimate frustration. The only ones attracted to the political life were lusting for power and money. My parents initially thought me crazy to involve myself in this, then later seemed hopeful and proud of this actually making a difference. But as time went on, these last couple years have reaffirmed their warnings rather than disproved them. Politics, as it is today, is no savior. Quite the opposite.
Continue reading “Five Questions With… Vanessa Edwards Foster”